saying goodbye at the start
Travel stories

The first week – Till April is dead, change not a thread

As we write this, we have already been away for more than a week. And what a week! A week of cold and discomfort, but also one of interesting conversations and pleasant encounters.

Saturday 10 april

Saturday morning just before our departure we were surprised by a real farewell committee. Els’ mother and brothers had travelled to Utrecht to wave us off with a self-made banner. We left between 11 and 12 a.m. and were just able to cycle for half an hour before it started to rain. Fortunately, we had found out in advance that there was a dry place to have lunch in Beusichem. From there, we cycled to the Veerhuis in Varik, where we were warmly welcomed by Henry Mentink with tea, biscuits and good conversations (more about this in a separate blog). Henry offered us to sleep inside, but we just wanted to start our journey in our (new) tent. So we set up our tipi between four flowering apple trees in the pouring rain. But we could cook and eat inside and could spend the whole evening in the Veerhuis with a beautiful view of the river Waal. 

Sunday 11 april

After a rather broken night, we went for a walk through Varik at half past seven on Sunday morning. Fortunately, it was dry, but the tent was of course very wet. By the way, we ourselves had stayed dry during the night, so the tent had survived the rain well. We continued our journey in the drizzle along the river Waal, with a view of the bridge at Zaltbommel. In the course of the morning, it became dry and even a little sunny, and by the time we arrived at nature campsite ‘De Knotwilg’, it was even sunny (but cold) weather. The tent was soon dry and in the evening we walked through the Biesbosch and drank hot tea in our tent, thanks to our thermos bottle.

Monday 12 april

On Monday morning, we kept a close eye on “Buienradar”, so that we could wash, have breakfast and pack up the tent at the right time. We could not pack the tent dry, but it was not raining when we were packing it. We did expect rain when we left. But it wasn’t rain, it was… snow… Interesting, but not so nice for your gloves. Fortunately, we were able to stand in a shelter when the ferry to Dordrecht left (without us) less than half an hour after our departure. The snow didn’t stop. With wet hands, the trip would be very difficult, so we quickly took shelter under a roof (which did not stop the cold and wind). We almost decided to take the train for a bit, but then it cleared up and we could continue and our gloves and shoes slowly dried. The journey continued past Kinderdijk to Rotterdam where we rolled out our mats at friends and were well looked after with cake, good food and a hot shower. 

Tuesday 13 april 

The 13th of April started with a walk along the Rotte, and in the sunshine we left for Delft. A short distance, so at half past twelve in the afternoon we arrived at nature campsite ‘De Grutto’ where we were the only guests. Because we had been too cold the first few nights, Els’ (step)grandfather brought an extra sleeping bag. Again, the tent dried quickly and that was good, because we could meet Rutger Spoelstra of Stichting Groenkracht in the afternoon (also a separate blog and podcast about this). Back at the campsite we were in for a treat, because the campsite manager gave us some leftover food and later on some pancakes as well. Some of her friends were also there to make music by the stove in the campsite hut. So we sat with warm tea and listened to the accordion and flute by the setting sun, a wonderful evening! When we were also allowed to borrow a hot bottle from the manager, our happiness was complete. 

Wednesday 14 april

After a good night’s sleep, partly thanks to the hot bottles, we had a rest day. Although, with these temperatures you have to stay active to keep yourself warm. We also had to do some shopping and wash our clothes. In the evening, we had a cup of hot soup and apple pie at a friend’s house in The Hague.

Thursday 15 april

Those hot bottles and the new sleeping bag help us through the nights, although it’s still freezing and there’s ice on the tent in the morning. Showering was therefore a bit of a challenge, especially as the shower facilities were actually outside. Today, we cycled to The Hague again without luggage, this time for an interview at the North Sea Farmers (blog & podcast here). After that, we strolled through The Hague and in the evening, people cooked for us again; we ate at the co-promotor of Els. On the way back, we cycled through Midden-Delfland while the sun was setting.

Friday 16 april

On to Leiden. We had the sun on our side (but not the wind!). A fairly short but beautiful stretch of cycling. When we arrived in Leiden, we changed from cycling to walking and went for a walk with friends around a large part of the Leidse Singel. In the evening, we ate and slept at an uncle of Pim. The garden was big enough for our tent, but a mat on the ground in the living room was just a bit more attractive; after all, the next few days we would also sleep inside and the tent was now nice and dry. When it was dark, Pim’s uncle taught us some new constellations. He also advised us to record a bit every day. Whether you will hear it or not is yet to be seen… 

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